How to earn a living with brain fog?

simplelife

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How do you hold down a full-time job with brain fog? I need to work to support myself, but I'm struggling just to work <10hrs/week and take one class to update my skills (and do a complete career change to something more fibro-friendly) . I'm already receiving some social services, so I feel that avenue is already pretty tapped out. I'm also under time constraints since my savings is nearly gone. I simply need to earn my own way or live on the streets.

As soon as I start to make headway on my resume or class assignments, I hit a wall. I only have a few good hours of brain power per day. It's always one step forward, two steps back. I'm very discouraged even trying to imagine working 40, or even 30 hours per week!

So, how do you work a full-time job and support yourself when your mind shuts down after a few hours?!
 

cookiebaker

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take short breaks more often.. and I am going to suggest finding some sort of "game" to keep the brain active - does not need to be hard, but keeping the neural pathways firing is important.

I have several "brain game" apps on my smart phone, and play them while waiting for various things... usually at the clinic waiting to get called back for my appointment...
and by "brain games" i dont mean things that are hard to do... heck, even just playing solitaire keeps those neurons firing - thinking about which card goes where, etc. I happen to like sudoku puzzles, so that is another one... or Mahjong - easy, but you still have to think about which tiles to remove in order to continue thru.
I also have one called "Plumber" - you have to connect (rotate) pipes from one side of screen to the other, as quickly as you can, and one called "Color Net" that is more about pattern recognition... you have to place colored chips on a "net" so that 2 chips of the same color are NOT connected by the lines of the net. Both of these start out very easy, and gradually get more complicated.

for me, if I dont have something to keep the brain occupied, I will go catatonic pretty quickly.
 

wiserlady

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I have brain fog and got sick and tired of daft advice, people not listening, people talking down to me as if I am a retard and doctors not helping. My brain fog goes up and down as do my other symptoms, it is not permanent. I did a lot of research and found that a lot of my symptoms are the same as those if you are low in estrogen - so I got estrogen and take it. This helps when I take serotonin - which is often used for pain control, to make it work better and help me sleep better. I am not ok but I am a lot better. Like you I do brain puzzles and brain training regularly, you need to do something 63 times before your brain accepts it and keeps it as a new thing. Some would say learn a language, in my case totally pointless when I would never meet anyone who speaks it, I do musical instruments and other skills which are more enjoyable and beneficial and can be done from home. Like you I need to keep my brain occupied properly or go mad, even when watching tv I am doing that stuff too. I got a Nintendo Switch and got strategy games which stretch you and make you problem solve too. And eat more of the foods that help with circulation and the brain - blueberries etc.
 

JayCS

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work <10hrs/week and take one class to update my skills (and do a complete career change to something more fibro-friendly) .already receiving some social services, time constraints since my savings is nearly gone. I simply need to earn my own way or live on the streets. I hit a wall. I only have a few good hours of brain power per day. It's always one step forward, two steps back. I'm very discouraged even trying to imagine working 40, or even 30 hours per week! So, how do you work a full-time job and support yourself when your mind shuts down after a few hours?!
Sounds like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
But I spose it's about grey (= increasing what's possible) instead of black (= streets) and white (= full-time). Good that you're getting social services for support.

In home office I can manage my brain fog (plus Ache & physical fatigue) better than I could if I had to go to work, because all the social stuff there would (eu)stress & distract me from self-care.
That said, I'm wondering what exactly it feels like when your mind "shuts down", maybe that'd give a clue. And if it's really one step forward and two steps back, rather than the other way round, it sounds like only a pretty radical change of your previous strategy can help, because you'd be going backwards.

Similar to cookiebaker's first suggestion: 1️⃣ First and foremost, like the self-care for physical fatigue, my self-care for mental fatigue = fibro-fog means pacing: taking breaks in time and task-switching. Regular "short" stints increases the total amount.
I assume working on a resumé and class assignments is something you can steer? For example if you say your concentration is only good for 2 hours, so-so for the 3rd, I'd keep the first stint down to an hour, then at least a half hour break before you do the 2nd hour, then the 3rd hour could be more concentrated and you might manage a 4th or even 5th hour too. I'd track your times and concentration maybe with an alarm. You could vary the work, e.g. down to 30 or 20 mins and the break times accordingly. I'd aim on never going

2️⃣ Secondly, I'd increase your mental energy by focusing on improving sleep. There's so much to say there that I'd prefer to ask first how your sleep is and what you'd want to improve about it.

3️⃣ Third, I'd try the supps for brain fog I'd already suggested to you here, if you haven't already.

4️⃣ Fourth, brain fog is often similar to ADHD, so we can use techniques and strategies from there, see here. One of them is clearer structuring, like I've done here by putting big numbers up front.

5️⃣ Fifth, since your situation is tough you may be getting stress and anxiety increasing brain fog, a vicious circle, so it'd then be important to target these similarly with sleep, supps & relaxation methods. Imagining full-time work is a mountain for you at the moment. Best eat the elephant one bite at a time.

6️⃣ Sixth, as regards additional puzzles to keep the brain active: What I'm working on is enough of a puzzle, any additional ones would put more of a strain on me personally. But I'd try to identify some of what I'm working on as a pleasant puzzle, to do when it's getting tough, that'd be one kind of task-switching I meant above in #1. Another would be to do completely different things, but also necessary, in breaks.
 

cookiebaker

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as regards additional puzzles to keep the brain active: What I'm working on is enough of a puzzle, any additional ones would put more of a strain on me personally.
the idea of the puzzles is not to add stress, but more a relaxation thing, yet still keeping the brain active... sounds counterintuitive, but it is kind of a "mindless" activity, even tho it makes the brain work - does that make sense? which game i play depends on how i feel at the time...
I can play solitaire for hours, and not really think about it... it is my "go to" game when i need something to do, but dont want to think too much. I use it a lot when i wake up during the night and cant go back to sleep... rather than toss & turn and disturb my partner, i get up, go to another room, turn the screen brightness way down and play until i am tired enough to go back to sleep.

I'm very discouraged even trying to imagine working 40, or even 30 hours per week!
Stop thinking about this so much.. think more about what you need to do today, here and now - the next 5-10 minutes. Worrying about the future is a waste of time and energy, and causes more stress and anxiety. No one knows what the future will bring. Yes, making general plans for a future is ok - like continuing your education, or saving money if possible... but trying to imagine things beyond the next day or two is pointless. Why, you ask? Because by the time that "future" gets here, your circumstances will most likely have changed from what they are today. Could be better, could be worse, might be the same, but doubtful...
If I had known 5 yrs ago where I would be today, what my circumstances would be, I would have given up right then and there - and missed out on a lot of good things that have happened over those same 5 yrs.. things I had no idea about at the time.

As soon as I start to make headway on my resume or class assignments, I hit a wall. I only have a few good hours of brain power per day
I have found that trying to do everything in one continuous session is usually counter-productive. I run out of steam that much faster. But if I break it down into smaller chunks, i can usually manage to get a fair bit accomplished. Spend 10-15 minutes (maybe 30 at most) on one thing, then either take a break, or switch to something else that requires less brain power. Use a timer if you need to, just try not to spend too long on one thing.
Even just 5 minutes of simply sitting back, closing my eyes, measured breathing & focused muscle relaxation techniques can make a huge difference for me. Sometimes those same 5 minutes might involve simple stretching to keep the body from getting too stiff. If it is a nice day out, i might go outside and walk around in the yard for a few minutes, or simply sit on the back steps and just enjoy the fresh air for a few minutes.
 

JayCS

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puzzles is not to add stress, but more a relaxation thing, yet still keeping the brain active
Ah, now I get it. For me that's forum-"work" ;-) as opposed to my real work... Like I'd called task switching.
 

MissMarvel87

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I was already working full time when I got my diagnosis, I would get drowsy at my desk often, but then Covid hit and in some ways working from home was easier as I could turn the music I liked up loud, and could move around when I needed to. Now I'm back in the office I find myself getting drowsy and wanting to nod off and I get up and move, I call it my Dopey Dora moment. Luckily I have an amazing support in the office and as there is only 4 of us we all know everyone's quirks. I think a big part of it is having the support to be you and not to be ashamed to have to ask for help. It is becoming more known and talked about nowadays, I never used to tell anyone I had Fibro as I had heard others 'dissing' it as a made up excuse for being lazy, it took me a long time to accept myself and also a relief to get the diagnosis and to know it's not all in my head!! I have changed my lifestyle a lot too and it has helped make a huge difference. I do take B vitamins and the Berrocca to try to give me more energy too, but weight was the biggest obstacle, losing almost 5 stone has made me have more energy too, and getting to the gym or a dog walk on good days.
I will keep my fingers crossed that you can find something that will keep you focused and that you can enjoy to do as a job.
 

fimi

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Hi MissMarvel and welcome! :coffee:

it took me a long time to accept myself and also a relief to get the diagnosis

I agree - acceptance is the key to finding a way through with fibro. It can be hard and take years to come to that point, but by doing so we allow ourselves some breathing space and can then find ways of making our own way through. 🙂

NIce to meet you MissMarvel!
 

sunkacola

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I agree - acceptance is the key to finding a way through with fibro.
This is true and is more important than you you can imagine until you start working on it and discover the benefits. Not only do we need to accept ourselves, but we also need to accept our limitations, accept the pain, accept everything without exception. Acceptance doesn't, of course, mean apathy or approval, and doesn't mean you will not do whatever you can to improve things.
 

simplelife

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That said, I'm wondering what exactly it feels like when your mind "shuts down", maybe that'd give a clue.

1️⃣ ...my self-care for mental fatigue = fibro-fog means pacing: taking breaks in time and task-switching. Regular "short" stints increases the total amount...

2️⃣ Secondly, I'd increase your mental energy by focusing on improving sleep.

3️⃣ Third, I'd try the supps for brain fog I'd already suggested to you here, if you haven't already.

4️⃣ Fourth, brain fog is often similar to ADHD, so we can use techniques and strategies from there, see here. One of them is clearer structuring, like I've done here by putting big numbers up front.

5️⃣ ...Best eat the elephant one bite at a time.
Thank you! My "shut down" looks like me forgetting what I'm doing while I'm doing it, or just staring blankly into space for awhile before I realize. Even mid-email, mid-sentence. Inability to do anything, really. That's when I know I've already pushed beyond my limits.

I've been using the Pomo timer method to help me break tasks up with scheduled breaks. Very helpful!

I'll try new supplements as finances allow.

Thank you for other suggestions!
 

simplelife

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Stop thinking about this so much.. think more about what you need to do today, here and now - the next 5-10 minutes. Worrying about the future is a waste of time and energy, and causes more stress and anxiety. No one knows what the future will bring.
Except that I DO know what my financial future will bring: my court-ordered spousal support terminates in November and then my current meager income will decrease by half. That could happen even sooner than Nov (my ex was laid off and our settlement is being renegotiated). Then I will not be able to pay my rent unless I earn that money myself. I've already spent over 18 months trying to figure this out. Because I don't have 40 hrs/wk of brain capacity in me, I simply don't know how I will pull off financial independence. I started this thread to see if it's even possible to work full-time with brain fog. I live in the Bay Area where cost of living is outrageous but I can't move because of custody issues. yeah. Stressful.
 

simplelife

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...I think a big part of it is having the support to be you and not to be ashamed to have to ask for help...

I will keep my fingers crossed that you can find something that will keep you focused and that you can enjoy to do as a job.
Thank you. I don't have much support at all, which I think is the heart of my problem. I was a SAHM for >10yrs so re-entering the workforce is hard enough for someone w/o fibro and brain fog. I'm learning to embrace my limits so I don't feel so ashamed applying for jobs.

Thanks for the goodwill also. I've been focusing on keeping a better attitude and hope it helps me too :)
 

simplelife

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This is true and is more important than you you can imagine until you start working on it and discover the benefits. Not only do we need to accept ourselves, but we also need to accept our limitations, accept the pain, accept everything without exception. Acceptance doesn't, of course, mean apathy or approval, and doesn't mean you will not do whatever you can to improve things.
Thank you. I've been working hard at acceptance and surprise surprise, on days when I tell myself I'm fine just how I am, I do much better.
 
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